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  • Writer's pictureMegan Drew Plumbing

What’s the Deal with Sump Pumps?

So what is the deal with sump pumps? In this article we will attempt to answer as many questions as possible regarding both sump pumps and sewage ejectors. If if you have a question that you don't see here, let us know in the comments section below!

Sump pump and pit with alarm and battery.

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These are some of the common questions that home owners have. So let's see if we can answer some questions and make people feel a little more comfortable and improve our plumbing IQ along the way!

What is the purpose of a sump pump?

The main purpose of a sump pump is to keep unwanted water out of your home that can cause flooding and damage.

In a lot of residential areas there are storm sewers. The purpose of this sewer is pretty self explanatory. It moves storm and underground water via gravity from your house or street to a disposal location. Usually a catchment pond, river, lake, etc. but rarely a treatment plant. This sewer is typically lower than your house and therefore any rainwater or ground water will flow from your weeping tiles around the house, through the storm sewer and to its final destination. As stated above, this final destination is rarely a treatment plant which means any pollution that goes down the storm drain ends up in our drinking water. Further to that, a great source of pollution, particularly around the great lakes, are home owners or contractors who claim to be plumbers. People will put washrooms in their basement and connect the new fixtures to the storm sewer not the sanitary sewer! GROSS. Every time the toilet flushes, it goes untreated into a lake or river, the same people say things like “I do all my own plumbing and have never had a problem”.

But I'm getting off topic, If you have a storm drain you probably don’t need a sump pump. But if you decide to install one in your basement to deal with excess water entering your home, especially if you have an older home and your weeping tiles may be failing, check with local building authorities to find out acceptable termination points. Usually the back yard or a swale.

Where are sump pumps installed?

Typically, sump pumps are installed in the basement, in a sump pit that is designed to collect exterior water from around the foundation and move said water to a higher elevation, away from the building you are protecting.

Do I need a sump pump?

Chances are if you need a sump pump there is already one there. A pump would, generally speaking be installed when your house was built. That being said often waterproof specialists will add weeping tiles and a sump pump to a basement that has issues with water getting in. If you have water getting in, I would suggest leaving this problem to a local expert. Often there are several solutions that do not require a pump. Experience will play a huge factor in success.

How does a sump pump work?


A sump pump or submersible pump sits in the bottom of a pit designed to collect storm water from weeping tiles. It moves the water from a lower point to a higher point away from your building, thereby protecting your foundation and helping to keep your basement dry.

As your pit fills with water a float switch will rise with the incoming water level and eventually turn on the pump at a prescribed depth. This level is determined by the length of tether between the float and the pump. The pump will turn on when that circuit is created, and through centrifugal force pump out the pit. When the float switch falls back down with the water level, it will break the circuit and turn the pump off.

What is the difference between a sump and effluent pump?

As discussed earlier, a sump pump moves storm water from a lower elevation to a higher elevation. Sump pumps are designed to move water only, not solids, so not sewage or waste water. Because they do not move sewage, you do not require a sealed lid to your tank, there should not be any odour or potential diseases. An effluent pump on the other hand, is designed to macerate any solids and move both water and sewage from a lower elevation to a higher elevation, and therefore a treatment facility, septic tank, or sanitary sewer. An example of this might be a new washroom in your basement that is lower than the sewer lines or septic tank. An effluent pump must have a sealed lid to prevent odours, gases, and disease from entering your living space. It also requires its own shut off valve installed in such a manner that both check valves and pump may be serviced without spilling contents.

Battery back up and alarm systems

A battery back up system can be installed in conjunction with a sump pump to give the added protection of a working system in the event the power to the main pump fails for a prolonged period of time.

The float switch on the battery pack is set to a higher water level than the main pump and is powered by a car battery. in the event that the power fails and water rises higher then the previous on depth, the battery pump will engage and remove the water in the pit, protecting your assets. Often the battery can be connected to your main power source which will keep the battery charged and ready to jump into action when called upon.

You can even purchase an alarm system that installs exactly the same way and will notify you via a buzzer if the water in the pit gets too deep because the pumps have failed and before it overflows and ruins your basement.

Where can I purchase a sump pump?

There are multiple places where you can purchase various makes and models of submersible pumps. Most DIY stores carry sump pumps, as well as local hardware stores. Plumbing wholesalers should also carry a wide selection of good pumps. There are usually stores in most towns that specialize in pumps only. I would suggest seeking these stores because they are well versed in pumps because that’s what they do! The quality of pumps they sell are generally better and there is usually a great selection for all projects and budgets. You can usually buy from your local plumber or your can always seek the pump you require online. Personally, I prefer to stick with North American brand names, sold by local suppliers. I find warranties are far superior, I get better service than a box store, my patronage helps to employ local people which in turn circulates money in my town. Local stores also have a tendency to want to help you out in a pinch, at least the good ones do!


Sump pumps are a critical system in your house or building. It is important to fully understand how they work, and more importantly when they are not working properly. The down side of a failing sump pump could be costly flood damage to your home or business, so it is wise to regularly check and maintain your sump pump. It is also a great idea to have a battery back up pump and alarm system installed to give you the added layer of security. You might also find that your home insurance cost is less as well if you have fail safes in place.

Please continue follow our blog posts and we will endeavor to upload helpful pointers and information that will save you a lot of time and money. If there is a topic you'd like to learn more about, please let us know in the comments section!

I'll leave you with a little rhyme:

How much sump, could a sump pump pump, if a sump pump could pump sump? Say that five times fast.

Through consistent improvement and upright intentions, we strive to forge lifelong relationships which benefit our community.- Megan Drew Plumbing

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